A variety of Acts of Parliament and government regulations cover commercial aquaculture in the NT. The Territory Government has established the Darwin Aquaculture Centre which includes a research and development section and a commercial section. Current research involves the commercialisation of mud crab aquaculture technology, while the commercial section is producing more than 1 million advanced barramundi fingerlings per year fingerlings for industry.
The Aquaculture Branch provides a range of services to support industry. These include aquaculture planning, extension, advice to investors, aquatic animal health, development of policy and training. Some of the outputs from aquaculture planning include the identification of sites for aquaculture, and in collaboration with the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Environment ensuring the ecological sustainable development of all aquaculture sectors.
To be legally able to undertake the activity of commercial aquaculture, an aquaculture licence is required. Licence applicants complete an Aquaculture Licence Proposal, which describes the nature of the proposed venture, and establishes that other Government consent/entitlements/permits/licences have been obtained, including an environmental management plan.
Marine species farmed in the Northern Territory
Aboriginal peoples in the NT have expressed interest in participating in aquaculture. Some aquaculture licences issued in the NT are already wholly owned by Aboriginal groups, or involve a significant participation by indigenous peoples.
The marine species farmed in the Northern Territory are prawns, pearl oysters, mud crabs and barramundi. Producers in the Northern Territory sell mainly to the major Australian markets in the southern states. Product is also exported to Europe, USA and Japan.
Note: Pearl Oyster Aquaculture will be covered in the section on Western Australia as it is the major producer with an estimated production of $175 million in 2001-02 compared to the Northern Territory with an estimated production of over $30 million in 2000-01. Prawn Aquaculture will be covered in thye Queensland section as it is Australia's major producer of farmed prawns.
Darwin Aquaculture Centre
The Darwin Aquaculture Centre is situated on Channel Island in Darwin Harbour about 50km from the city centre. This research and development facility was designed by the aquaculture staff and completed in September 1998 at a cost of $2.3M. The centre currently accommodates 16 staff and 2 post graduate students.
It has undertaken a range of Research and Development projects on pearl oysters, prawns, barramundi, mud crabs, reef fish, copepods and algae during the 15 years since it was established. A bank of self-cleaning sand filters maintains a supply of suitable sea water all year, a rare commodity from a tropical estuarine environment.